Absconding Punjab National Bank fraud accused Mehul Choksi has surrendered his Indian citizenship by handing over his passport to the Antiguan government where he had been taking refuge for more than a year now, sources told Republic TV on Monday.
He had moved to Antigua from the United States in July 2018, and had taken the passport of the Caribbean country after taking an oath of allegiance to that country.
Earlier on December 25, 2018, Choksi, who is wanted by investigating agencies in India for loan fraud, told a court that he cannot bear a 41-hour long journey from Antigua owning to his 'poor health'. However, Choksi, in his written reply, had apprised the court about his willingness to join the investigation through video conferencing. In the court, Choksi accused the Enforcement Directorate (ED) of misleading the probe by deliberately not sharing the details of his health condition.
On January 4, the Enforcement Directorate (ED) said that it has attached a factory in Thailand worth over Rs 13 crore of a Gitanjali group company, owned by absconding diamond jeweller Mehul Choksi, in connection with the alleged $2 billion PNB fraud case.
Choksi, his nephew and diamond jeweller Nirav Modi, and others are being probed under various criminal laws after the fraud came to light, following a complaint from the Punjab National Bank (PNB) that they allegedly cheated the nationalised bank to the tune of over Rs 13,000 crore, with the purported involvement of some of its employees. Both Choksi and Modi are absconding since the case was registered by the ED and the Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI).
Meanwhile, the government has sacked two executive directors of Nirav Modi scam-hit Punjab National Bank (PNB), on January 20, for their alleged failure in exercising proper control over the functioning of the bank. Their services were terminated from January 18, as per the Finance Ministry notification.
The ED had urged the court to declare Choksi a fugitive economic offender and seize his properties.
Prime Minister Modi, in his first interview of 2019, had ensured the return of economic offenders like Nirav Modi, Choksi and Vijay Mallya, by emphasising that those who have fled will be brought back to India.
He said, "Why did they need to flee after all? Had there been governments like earlier, same dostana would have continued, lootna hai, looto, khana hai, khate chalo, they would have no need to flee. They had to flee because they would have to adhere to the laws here. They might had to return every penny. Those who have fled, there are international laws to bring them back. Those are being implemented. For such fugitives, we have made stringent laws. Seizure of property is happening even in foreign countries. Therefore, we are using all the tools available with the government. I am confident, that those who have fled the country earlier, they have not returned. But those who fled during this government, they will be brought back, today or tomorrow."
(With agency inputs)